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“What better way to train your own mana weaving then to try to survive and eventually break out of prison which has an anti-mana-weaving artifact?”
Eeeh?! Kiel’s face paled, and he blurted out. “Who would do that?! Isn’t that too extreme?!”
His words brought her out of her strange mood, and she looked at him strangely. She pressed her lips into a thin line to keep her mouth shut.
Oh for the love of fate… she couldn’t be talking about her own experiences… could she?
Kiel closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. What kind of… I don’t even… what?
Elaru finally noticed that her speech didn’t have the desired effect, and she coughed to attract Kiel’s attention before waving it off and changing the subject. “My point is, I am a genius, according to papa.”
Kiel’s eyes flashed with cold light. “Do not change the subject!” He lowered his voice to be barely audible. “I thought you said you aren’t a wanted criminal!”
She looked at him with a straight face. “I am not.” He expected her to continue, but she didn’t. When she noticed the chilling aura that started spreading from him, she decided to elaborate.
“Don’t be silly.” She rolled her eyes with mirth. “I wasn’t arrested and thrown into prison.”
Kiel let out a breath that he didn’t know he was holding. His lie sense wasn’t tingling. Thank the G.o.ds! He noticed his lips were dry and he took a sip of his honeymead.
“Papa smuggled me in.”
The honeymead that just entered Kiel’s mouth came out in a beautiful spray of shining liquid creating a colorful rainbow in the soft light of the tavern.
It spilled all over his meat and even dripped down the sides of the table to the floor. He quickly covered his mouth with his hand, doing his best to look like a dignified n.o.ble. But suppressing a coughing fit while choking wasn’t easy. His lungs burned, his throat itched, his eyes teared from his attempts to keep a straight face and not choke on his own spit.
Yep. Her father is definitely the one to blame for her poor upbringing.
Kiel didn’t know what was worse, the pain he was feeling, his dignity going down the drain, or that his spit didn’t manage to reach Elaru and pull her down with him.
Elaru seemed oblivious to the murderous gaze aimed at her. She looked at him worriedly and flicked her fingers creating a sound barrier around them. “Hey, hey. There is no dignity in death, mate. If you worry about your image, you’ll choke.”
Kiel couldn’t hold it in any longer and coughed it all out. He still did his utmost to cover it up. Luckily, they had chosen a secluded spot of the tavern, where they wouldn’t attract much attention. Since both of them were extremely good looking, Kiel was worried they would stand out like diamonds among regular stones and not have any peace and quiet.
Since no one could hear him coughing, no one noticed anything strange.
He wanted to aim his coughing at Elaru this time, but the vixen must have had an impeccable sixth sense because she quickly moved behind him (out of reach) and patted him on the back like she was patting a baby about to burp.
“Don’t… touch… me” He growled in-between coughs.
She let him be after that. Giving him a few minutes of silence to get over the experience.
It would have been better if the expression on her face didn’t clearly state: “Let's have a moment of silence to mourn Kiel’s tragic fate.”
Kiel moved his hands to rub his temples and when his eyes refused to stop glaring holes into Elaru, he covered them with his hand. He stood there frozen for a while.
After another few minutes had gone by, when Elaru’s senses detected the danger had pa.s.sed, she spoke up. “Are you alright, mate? That was a nasty coughing fit! Should I cast some healing magic on you? What brought that on?”
“What do you think was the cause of that?! Breaking into prison is just as illegal as breaking out of it!” Kiel hissed from between his clenched teeth.
“Not if you don’t get caught doing it.” She smirked.
“That’s not how the law works!!” He barely managed to restrain himself from slamming his fist against the table.
She chewed on a piece of her meat and smiled. “Your meat will get cold. You can use magic to heat it up, but you shouldn’t be spoiled and do everything with magic.”
I don’t need you to tell me that!!
“Oh wait, I guess it already got cold. That honeymead you spewed over it cooled it down.”
Kiel felt like banging his head against a wall, repeatedly. The last amount of restraint he had evaporated, he didn’t even care about being in public anymore. He couldn’t even remember what he was supposed to be acting like in this moment.
In a swift motion, he picked up Elaru’s jug of honeymead and spilled it over her plate of meat.
Elaru gaped at him in shock. A mix of “I did not see that one coming” and “Who are you and what did you do to Kiel?” was splattered all over her face.
Kiel couldn’t remember the last time he felt such a strong sense of self-satisfaction than seeing Elaru’s stupefied expression. He finally managed to get back at her. He finally managed to usurp that calm that ruled over her. As her eyes grew wider and wider, the previous anger and humiliation evaporated into thin air without a trace.
After recovering from her stupor, Elaru exclaimed in a tear-jerking voice. “Why did you kill my meat?! And why did you use my honeymead to kill it?”
Kiel snorted, stifling a laugh. “Why would I waste my own honeymead? You killed my meat, I killed yours. Now we are even.”
Elaru pouted, feeling wronged. “So petty! You were the one that spewed your honeymead all over your meat!”
Kiel’s eyebrow twitched. “You made me spew it out.”
“I can’t be blamed for that. If you accidentally ran into my fist, would you blame that on me too?”
Kiel raised his eyebrow. “The only way I could accidentally run into your fist would be if I was already moving and you formed the fist and put it in front of my face. Which is no different than straight out punching me. You’d definitely be the one to blame.”
She refused to give up. “What if it was an accidental injury? You’d make me suffer too?”
“I am not heartless. I’d probably pardon you on account of being a female.”
As soon as he said that, he felt a sharp pain on his shin. Son of a… !!! The little vulpy kicked him!
Almost out of reflex, he kicked her right back. But she was ready for it and quickly dodged while whining. “You said you’d pardon it.”
“I said I would pardon it if it was accidental.”
“How do you know it wasn’t? You didn’t even give me a benefit of the doubt!”
“I am not b.l.o.o.d.y stupid!”
Elaru pouted and gave him a sad look, like a child who got her sweets stolen. Her ears drooped down pitifully as she looked back at her plate. “Such a waste of fine meat. Something had to die for this.”
Kiel rolled his eyes at her antics. She didn’t feel bad when his meat got ruined, and only when her own suffered did she start making a drama out of it. “Drowning in honeymead is not a bad way to go.”
“Spoken like a true alcoholic.” She continued pouting and looking at him judgingly.
“Except honeymead isn’t an alcoholic beverage.” Kiel’s mouth twitched. Elaru raised her finger to her lips and shushed him. “Shhh! Let’s have a moment a silence for our fallen comrade.”
How childish! What brought this on? Where did the cunning demon disappear to? Kiel couldn’t help finding it amusing. “It’s a piece of meat. It would have ended up mixing with the honeymead in your stomach anyway. It makes absolutely no difference.”
Her eyes were as round as saucers, looking at him as if his words contained profound enlightenment. She looked down at her plate and then stabbed a piece of meat with a fork, bringing it into her mouth.
It was Kiel’s turn to be dumbfounded. Did she still intend to eat it??
Kiel didn’t need to be telepathic to tell she was thinking “Right. Whether it enters mixed or mixes in the stomach, it is all the same.”
As the meat entered her mouth, her expression steeled. She finished chewing on it and swallowed. Just as Kiel thought she would continue eating she put down her utensils and sighed: “Not the same. Definitely not the same.”
Both of them looked down at their ruined dinner. The entire table was dripping with honeymead. The meat was floating around their plates like a ship.
They turned their heads and looked around them. Thank the G.o.ds for the sound isolation! No one seemed to notice anything wrong. Yet.
They turned their heads back straight and looked at each other. Then they looked back at the table, and then back at each other.
Elaru was the first one to burst out laughing.
It wasn’t clear how much time pa.s.sed before Kiel noticed he was laughing as well.
They giggled, chuckled, and outright laughed until their stomachs started hurting, and tears started stinging their cheeks.
* * *
Kiel sat on the chair next to the desk and stared at Elaru. She was lying down on the bed preparing to sleep. She had taken off an outer layer of her clothes when they came back from the dinner.
All she had on was a tight sleeveless shirt and short pet.i.te trunks.
Most of her body was bare,; her long legs, slim arms and her delicate neck. The shirt was low cut so even parts of her chest were visible.
Her skin was flawless, without any blemishes or scars.
Kiel felt like he was seeing something that he shouldn’t be seeing.
He had been aware of her well-developed body from the start. He didn’t need a reminder. He preferred her with her clothes on.
He could tell her to cover herself with the blanket, but he could already see her teasing him about it.
Kiel wasn’t shy. Most of the time he wouldn’t care if women around him were walking around naked. But those were just random women he didn’t have any relation to. Why would he care what they did?
However, Elaru was different. She was an irreplaceable part of himself, he was stuck with her forever. And everything she did would have an effect on him, large or small.
The last thing he needed was to bring romance or s.e.xuality into their relationship. The nature of their relationship was that of mutual benefit, and it should stay that way. No more, no less. Mixing romance with business was never a good thing.
Besides, he wouldn’t be glued to her forever. There would come a time when they would part their ways. Any potential romance between them was doomed to fail from the start.
They didn’t live in the same world. He was an argel, she was an elibu. He was a n.o.ble, she was a commoner. He wanted to raise in status, show everyone his worth. She didn’t care about social norms and preferred hiding in the shadows. Even their personalities were completely opposite. They had no place in each other’s lives.
The highest relationship they could ever hope to have was friendship. A friendship without s.e.xual attraction, like that of two guys. Unfortunately, it was easier to pretend that she was a guy when her two mounds weren’t poking him in the eye.
Elaru paid him no attention. She had no problem acting like she was a guy camping with male friends. She didn’t flaunt her a.s.sets around, but she didn’t take measures to hide them either. It was as if she wasn’t aware she even had a.s.sets.
Did her father raise her as a boy?
Is that why Elaru considered herself to be “one of the guys”? Calling him “mate” all the time?
That would certainly explain a lot.
Elaru misunderstood his serious gaze
“You don’t need to keep watch. I’ll put up another protective barrier around us to protect us while we sleep.”
Kiel closed his eyes and sighed. Did she really expect him to sleep next to her?
He removed his own clothes too. Leaving only his boxers and undershirt on but they didn’t do much to cover up his abs and well-sculpted body. He noticed Elaru staring at him with interest.
He felt the chills traveling down his spine. Don’t give me that look! Didn’t you say you weren’t romantically interested in me?
“You’re pretty toned. Your mana resistance shouldn’t be too high. That’ll be quite helpful. How long have you been practicing martial arts?”
Kiel didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He rubbed his temples, feeling a headache coming. “Since I was little.”
She was used to being around men because of her father and Wade? Was that it?
She wasn’t looking at him as a man. She acted just like two buddies would in the dressing room, asking casual questions.
She was interested in him, but not in a romantic sense.
He felt relieved. It made the situation that much simpler.
Realizing that Elaru had “friend zoned” him from the start, he was no longer worried about misunderstandings and romance. He laid down next to her on the bed and turned away to his side. He was not a s.e.x crazed teenager, he never was. Now that he understood her behavior, he could easily adjust his own.
He was just about to let it go when he remembered what usually happens in these scenarios.
Knowing his luck, they’d wake up in a compromising position. That won’t do. He better be safe than sorry.
Elaru got up from the bed and found her way towards the table with their equipment.
Kiel’s eyes briefly paused on her before he looked around the room, his eyes searching for something. He frowned, there was nothing suitable in the room.
His gaze snapped to the table, attracted to the glow coming from the metal egg. Elaru had just finished aligning the rings and the protection barrier activated, this time covering an even larger area.
Kiel’s eyes brightened when his gaze fell on his sword that was among their equipment on the table. He got up and picked up the sheathed sword, bringing it back to the bed. The wooden headboard of the bed had decorative holes in the shape of a heart. He brought up his sword and lodged the handle into the hole right in the middle of the headboard. The sword remained lodged, creating a clear divide between the two sides of the bed.
As Elaru get back on her side of the bed, her eyes didn’t leave the sword hovering there like a poor excuse for a fence.
“You don’t intend to murder me tonight, do you?” She chuckled and asked half-jokingly.
“I just might.” Kiel smirked. This would do. With the sword in the way, there was no way they’d wake up in an awkward position now. He was very satisfied with himself.
Elaru realized it was a joke because she grinned in response. “Wouldn’t recommend it. I am pretty nasty while half asleep.”
“Even nastier than you are when you are awake?” Kiel exclaimed in mock shock.
Elaru snickered and rolled her eyes at him. “Many times nastier. So nasty you could die from the nastiness.”
Kiel shook his head, his face sprouting a small smirk, and pulled on the rope that shifted the array formation on the ceiling out of place. As soon as the formation got misaligned, the glowing crystals dimmed and lost their light, blanketing the two in the veil of darkness.